Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Georgia, accounting for one-third of all deaths in the state. Many South Georgia counties rank among those in Georgia with the highest heart disease-related mortality. In Thomas County, it’s estimated that more than 30% of deaths are related to major cardiovascular diseases.
Archbold’s Loudermilk Heart and Vascular Center is trying to help curb these statistics by providing the most current life-saving interventional cardiology procedures, including coronary angioplasty and stent placement.
Thousands of lives have been saved at the Loudermilk Heart and Vascular Center since Archbold began offering invasive cardiology procedures in Thomasville in 2007.
Thomasville native and Cone Machinery owner David Cone is one of them.
On the day Hurricane Irma hit South Georgia, Cone woke up early in the morning with pain and tightness in his chest.
“I had tightness in my chest for three to four days in a row, and had just assumed it was a pulled muscle,” said Cone.
“I woke my wife up and told her we needed to get to the Emergency Department just as precaution,” said Cone. “I could tell something was wrong, but I never thought it was something serious. I wasn’t showing the typical signs of a heart attack.”
Though signs of heart attack can vary, people tend to experience pain in their chest, jaw, left arm or upper abdomen, along with dizziness, fatigue, clammy skin, cold sweat and lightheadedness. Heart disease is hereditary. So if someone in your family has had a heart attack, you are at a greater risk, as well.
“Heart problems run in my family,” said Cone. “My dad passed away at age 49 from a heart attack, and so did my uncle at the age of 42. I have always tried to stay on top of my health, which is why I decided to come to the hospital when I noticed the pain wasn’t going away.”
As soon as he arrived at Archbold, the staff got him situated quickly and comfortably. Bob Miles, MD, one of Archbold’s cardiologists, immediately met with Cone and decided on a course of treatment.
“Dr. Miles told me the best way to know if the pain was coming from a blocked artery, or from my heart, was to do a cardiac catheterization,” said Cone. “I agreed and we were able to set it up with Archbold interventional cardiologist Clay Sizemore, MD.”
Within three hours, Cone was wheeled to Archbold’s catheterization laboratory (cath lab), a procedure room with advanced diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualize the arteries and chambers of the heart, and treat the abnormalities.
Dr. Miles and Dr. Sizemore were able to insert a catheter into Cone’s wrist, and found a 70% blockage in his artery.
Dr. Sizemore then placed a stent in Cone’s artery to restore blood flow to his heart.
“I was blown away by the care I received at Archbold,” expressed Cone. “The best part of all, I had access to this level of care in my hometown, and I was able to go home the same day.”
“The Thomasville community and surroundings areas are lucky to have access to Archbold’s Loudermilk Heart and Vascular Center,” expressed Cone. “We don’t have to travel to big cities to receive advanced treatment; we have world-class healthcare in our backyard.”
Heart attacks can happen at any time and at any place.
Scott Foister was helping his wife in their church’s nursery when he had a heart attack.
“He was helping me change one of our grandchildren’s diapers when it happened,” said Kim Foister, Mr. Foister’s wife. “He was standing behind me, and I heard him groan and fall down. He was not breathing and did not have a pulse.”
Thankfully, there were two paramedics, two EMT’s and 3 nurses at the church to help Mr. Foister until an ambulance arrived.
“I didn’t really have any symptoms of a heart attack the day of, but I did have indigestion and jaw pain in the days leading up to it,” said Foister.
Once Mr. Foister arrived at the hospital, he immediately went to Archbold’s catheterization laboratory where Dr. Christopher Daniels, MD, performed a heart catheterization/intervention.
“I don’t remember anything from that day,” said Foister. “It didn’t hit me that I had had a heart attack until a few days later.”
“He was in such a confused state, that he didn’t understand what was happening or why he was have a heart catheterization/intervention performed,” said Mrs. Foister.
Foister had two stents put in the same artery on Sunday, and left the hospital the following Thursday with a portable defibrillator.
“His heart was only functioning at 34% when he left, and Dr. Daniels told us it would take some time for him to be able to get back to work,” said Mrs. Foister.
Three months after his heart attack, Mr. Foister had a permanent defibrillator/pacemaker device implanted at Archbold.
“Before this experience, I knew Archbold had a cath lab and did various procedures, but I had never really thought about the magnitude of service they offered,” said Foister. “Since this experience, I’ve realized how important the heart and vascular center is to our community, and how the procedures they offer save lives.”
“It’s so important that there is a facility here in Thomasville that offers lifesaving cardiology procedures,” said Mrs. Foister. “If Archbold’s Loudermilk Heart and Vascular Center wasn’t here, we would be telling a very different story.”
“I would not be here today if it wasn’t for Dr. Daniels and the nurse practitioner, Kelly Ledger, along with our church family” said Foister. “They saved my life.”
One day, while working on his antique 1955 Ford Crown Victoria, Homer Pankey showed signs of a rapid heartbeat that was not returning to normal rhythm. His wife Pat was insistent that he go to the Emergency Room as quickly as possible.
“Before I went to the Emergency Room, I called my cardiologist, Jim Karas, MD, just to be sure,” said Mr. Pankey. “He listened to me explain the symptoms I was having, and calmly, but firmly, directed me to report to the Emergency Department.
Dr. Karas determined that Mr. Pankey’s heart beating at a very rapid pace that day indicated atrial fibrillation.
Once Mr. Pankey arrived to the hospital, he was given oxygen, medication and an electrical shock to restore the heart rate to a normal rhythm. Once he was stabilized, he was transferred to the cardiac care unit at Archbold.
After several tests, Dr. Karas determined that the best course of treatment was to have a pacemaker defibrillator placed in Mr. Pankey’s body. The unit was inserted, able to control the heartbeat, and also monitor his rhythm to prevent another episode.
Two days after his pacemaker unit was installed at Archbold, Mr. Pankey went home.
“I’m so grateful for Dr. Karas. He is a highly skilled cardiologist,” said Mr. Pankey. “And in my opinion, Archbold’s Loudermilk Heart and Vascular Center is a state-of-the art center fully equipped to provide the best heart care to residents of Thomas and surrounding counties. We’re fortunate to have this high level of cardiac care in Thomasville.”
Dee Bailey was hesitant to go to the doctor to see what was causing her lack of energy and swollen ankles.
Finally, her family made an appointment for her, and drove her there the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Archbold cardiologist Bob Miles ordered her an echocardiogram (echo), a common study to evaluate heart function and structure with ultrasound.
“When Dr. Miles reviewed the results from the echo, he acted surprised that I was doing as well as I was,” said Bailey. “He told me that my heart was operating at about five to ten percent and that if I ate a lot of salt that weekend I would end up in the emergency room.”
Without hesitation, Dr. Miles scheduled a heart catheterization for Bailey the following Monday.
“Dr. Miles had been honest and fair with the news about my heart. He was also very calm, nice, caring and professional,” said Bailey. “His kind manner was very comforting to me.”
After her cath, Dr. Miles thought Bailey could be treated with medicine and a pacemaker, and that surgery would not be necessary. He ordered her an external defibrillator, or LifeVest, which she had to wear 24/7.
Five months later, Bailey had an implantable pacemaker/defibrillator placed.
In 2016, Bailey had to have her pacemaker replaced. Dr. Miles was able to do it immediately, instead of having to refer her to another clinic or out of town. And about two hours after the replacement, she was on her way home.
“The Archbold Loudermilk Heart and Vascular Center continues to raise the bar by offering more procedures and technology for patients in Thomasville,” said Bailey. “I wish that my dad and grandmother, who both had heart disease, had been able to have access to the technology that is available now at Archbold.”
“During the past eight years, I have had tests done in the cath lab, nuclear medicine and virtually every department at Archbold,” said Bailey. “Every time I have something done, I am treated with kindness and professionalism.”
Bailey now has routine checkups with her doctors, and also goes to cardiac rehab three times a week at Archbold.
“The cardiac rehab staff continues to monitor me carefully for any change in my heart,” said Bailey. “We have a good time there while trying to improve heart health.”
“The best part about Archbold’s Loudermilk Heart and Vascular Center is that it’s local,” expressed Bailey. “It is right here in Thomasville, which means I don’t have to take long road trips to see the doctor. The excellent doctors and compassionate staff always remind me how lucky we are to have such an amazing center here. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the heart care we have right here in Thomasville, because I truly believe that Dr. Miles and his partners are the best in South Georgia.”